Scottish Winter Climbing

Scottish winter is a cruel mistress, but when the wind drops, and the sun shines, it is unbeatable.

Scotland in winter can be simply magical. It is a harsh environment, with weather and conditions changing daily (at least!). Often all four seasons can be experienced in a single day. The Scottish Winter season can often run from November, until April - or even early May in a good year. It starts with shorts days, and scratchy mixed climbing in November and December. After Christmas there is often a stormy middle section, with a few thaws - essential for consolidating snow into neve. This is followed by a stonking finale in March and April, with blue ice everywhere, and often under a never ending high pressure system.
Nikki on an early season ascent of Tower Ridge.

I am based in Scotland from mid January until the end of March. I will be staying in Fort William, and guiding mainly on Ben Nevis, and in Glencoe. However if there are good ice conditions in the the Northwest Highlands I am always keen head up there for a day or two. Equally if the West Coast is storm lashed it is worth driving to the Northern Caingorms, as it often offers better weather (and a shorter walk in too).

Scotland has a huge variety of mountaineering and winter climbing. There is practically everything from: mountaineering ridges like the Forcan Ridge, in Glen Shiel; to short, tricky buttress routes like those found in the Northern Cairngorms; to stonking ice and classic ridge on Ben Nevis; to cascade climbing on blue ice at Beinn Udlaidh; to - best of all - unforgettable adventures, in remote corries, in the Northwest Highlands.

If you are looking for climbing inspiration the classic book Cold Climbs, and the more recent publication Chasing the Ephemeral are great places to start. If it is mountaineering that inspires you, Gary Smith’s, Scotland’s Winter Mountain with One Axe will get your juices flowing.

Becky on Observatory Buttress - Ben Nevis.
Lou on Short Circuit - Fiacaill Buttress
Tom on Fallout Corner - one of the best mixed pitches anywhere. Photo: Di Gilbert
Simon heading down into the Loch Avon Basin
Tom on Stand and Deliver - Aonach Beag
Di inside Guillotine - Carn Etchachan
Deep South Gully - Beinn Alligin
Polly on Gargoyle Wall - Ben Nevis
Big Smiles - Harrison at the top of Route Major - Carn Etchachan
Adam on Tower Ridge - Ben Nevis
Tim on the Mantrap, Northeast Buttress - Ben Nevis
Brad on Minus One Gully - Ben Nevis
Pete Graham near the top of Beinn Eighe's Central Buttress.
Will on Deep Cut Chimney - Hell's Lum

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I am always happy to chat about your guiding aims and aspirations, or just climbing and skiing in general.

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